“Jasmine Revolution”
Symbol of peace: Flowers placed on the barrel of a tank
in very much calmer protests than in recent days in Tunisia

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011

'The Protester' - Time Person of the Year 2011
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi. "Mohammed suffered a lot. He worked hard. but when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity." (Peter Hapak for TIME)

1 - TUNISIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


How eyepatches became a symbol of Egypt's revolution - Graffiti depicting a high ranking army officer with an eye patch Photograph: Nasser Nasser/ASSOCIATED PRESS

2 - EGYPT Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)


''17 February Revolution"

3 - LIBYA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

5 - SYRIA Democratic Change / Freedom of Speech (In Transition)

"25 January Youth Revolution"
Muslim and Christian shoulder-to-shoulder in Tahrir Square
"A Summary" – Apr 2, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Religion, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Intelligent/Benevolent Design, EU, South America, 5 Currencies, Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Middle East, Internet, Israel, Dictators, Palestine, US, Japan (Quake/Tsunami Disasters , People, Society ...), Nuclear Power Revealed, Hydro Power, Geothermal Power, Moon, Financial Institutes (Recession, Realign integrity values ..) , China, North Korea, Global Unity,..... etc.) -
(Subjects: Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" (without a manager hierarchy) managed Businesses, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)
"The End of History" – Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)
(Subjects:Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Muhammad, Jesus, God, Jews, Arabs, EU, US, Israel, Iran, Russia, Africa, South America, Global Unity,..... etc.) (Text version)

"If an Arab and a Jew can look at one another and see the Akashic lineage and see the one family, there is hope. If they can see that their differences no longer require that they kill one another, then there is a beginning of a change in history. And that's what is happening now. All of humanity, no matter what the spiritual belief, has been guilty of falling into the historic trap of separating instead of unifying. Now it's starting to change. There's a shift happening."


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013.

They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."



African Union (AU)

African Union (AU)
Heads of governments during the opening session of the African Union summit on January 30, 2015 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Few words can describe Nelson Mandela, so we let him speak for himself. Happy birthday, Madiba.
Loading...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Jailed ex-Chad dictator Habre ordered to compensate victims

Yahoo – AFP, Malick Rokhy Ba, July 29, 2016

Hissene Habre led Chad from 1982-1990, his rule marked by fierce repression of
opponents and targeting of rival ethnic groups (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

Dakar (AFP) - Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, sentenced to life in May for crimes against humanity, was ordered Friday to pay what could amount to tens of millions of euros to his thousands of victims.

A special African Union court ruled he should give up to 30,000 euros ($33,000) to each victim who suffered rape, arbitrary detention and imprisonment during his abusive 1982-1990 rule, as well as to their relatives.

"We will spare no effort to locate and seize Habre's assets and make sure the victims are compensated," said Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, who spent 15 years trying to bring him to justice.

Habre was sentenced to life in jail on May 30 by the court set up to try him a quarter century after he fled to Senegal following his 1990 ouster by Chad's current president Idriss Deby.

The landmark conviction was seen by rights campaigners as a victory in the fights against impunity.

It set a global precedent as the first time a country had prosecuted the former leader of another nation for rights abuses. It was also the first such trial by the African Union.

Hissene Habre led Chad from 1982-1990, his rule marked by fierce repression of 
opponents and targeting of rival ethnic groups (AFP Photo/J-M.Cornu/S.Ramis/
A.Bommenel, jj/)

Friday's financial compensation order was issued by the court's presiding judge, Burkina Faso's Gberdao Gustave Kam, who did not detail how many people would win redress.

But the main lawyer for victims of Habre's rule, Jacqueline Moudeina, told journalists that 4,733 civil plaintiffs were involved in the case.

Of those, 1,625 were direct victims of regime brutality, having been jailed without trial or taken prisoner of war. Around a dozen women could claim for rape or sexual abuse, she said.

The court ordered Habre "to pay each of the victims of rape and sexual slavery the sum of 20 million CFA francs (30,490 euros), to each victim of arbitrary detention, or prisoners of war ... 15 million CFA francs; and to indirect victims, 10 million," Kam said.

One of the civil plaintiffs, jeweller Abdourahmane Gueye who says he was jailed for several months on charges of spying, said the compensation was far too low.

"I lost more than 30 million," he said.

'Africa's Pinochet'

"Money will never bring me back my friends," said former detainee Souleymane Guengueng. "But it helps to heal the wounds, to support those who became poor and it shows we have rights that must be recognised."

The 73-year-old former leader, who refused to recognise the court throughout the nine-month trial, did not attend the hearing. His court-appointed lawyers said they would appeal.

A group of Habre victims, including lawyer Reed Brody, said they estimated total compensation at around 53 billion CFA francs, almost 80.8 million euros.

The court has already frozen some of his assets, including a house in an upscale Dakar neighbourhood thought to be worth about 680,000 euros as well as some small bank accounts. But Habre is thought to have much more extensive assets.

Chadian dictator Hissene Habre gesturing as he leaves a Dakar courthouse after 
an identity hearing on June 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Seyllou)

Often known as "Africa's Pinochet", Habre was accused of the deaths of 40,000 people, charges he denied.

Witnesses recounted the horror of life in Chad's prisons, describing in graphic detail abusive and often deadly punishments inflicted by Habre's feared secret police, the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).

Victims were subject to electric shocks and waterboarding while some had gas sprayed in their eyes or spice rubbed into their genitals, the court heard.

Habre's defence team unsuccessfully sought to cast doubt on the prosecution's argument that their client was an all-knowing, all-powerful head of the DDS, suggesting he may have been unaware of abuses on the ground.

For more than 20 years, the former dictator lived freely in an upmarket Dakar suburb with his wife and children.

Brody said in May that the conviction was a warning.

"The days when tyrants could brutalise their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end," Brody said in a statement.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Surprise as veterans join growing anti-Mugabe movement

Once considered some of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s strongest supporters, war veterans have joined a growing chorus of people speaking out against the long-serving president.

Deutsche Welle, 22 Jul 2016


In a statement released on Thursday (21.07.2016), the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) described the 92-year-old president as a dictator and announced that they would no longer support his rule.

"[Mugabe's] leadership has presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin for which the effects are now felt throughout the land," the veterans said in the statement, issued after a seven-hour meeting of its leaders.

The veterans fought alongside Mugabe during the country's war for independence (in 1980) and continually supported the president during previous campaigns, sometimes violently.

"We note, with concern, shock and dismay, the systematic entrenchment of dictatorial tendencies, personified by the President and his cohorts, which have slowly devoured the values of the liberation struggle," the statement continued .

Mugabe is the head of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) party, which he has led since independence in 1980. He rose to power as the leader of a rebel group which fought in a guerilla war against white minority rule of then Rhodesia. He has been the president of Zimababwe since 1987.

Protests and counter-protests

The release of the statement by the war veterans comes after weeks of organized protests against the ruling party in Zimbabwe. Some of the protests were spontaneous while others were planned using social media.

Pastor Evan Mawarire took to social media this year to complain about the economic situation in Zimababwe. His posts led to a campaign under the hashtag #ThisFlag asking Zimbabweans to take pictures of themselves wearing the country's flag in a sign of protest against corruption, injustice and poverty in the country.

With his #ThisFlag movement, Pastor Evan Mawarire has become the face
of government opposition

The #ThisFlag campaign took off and the pastor used its popularity to protest the government by asking people to "shut down" the country by staying home for one day. The protests led to Mawarire being briefly detained before the case was thrown out by the court. Mawarire has stated that he is considering future actions to continue to put pressure on the Mugabe government.

A demonstration in support of President Mugabe and ZANU-PF by the party's youth wing was also held this week. Unlike previous demonstrations which were violently suppressed by the police and security forces, this protest was guarded and protected by the police.

"The youths may provide him with the muscle he needs right now, but they don't command any meaningful political stock," political analyst Gabriel Shumba, chairman of the South Africa-based Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, told the AFP.

Such events tend to attract many young men although the majority of Zimbabwean youth remain unemployed. According to some estimates by independent economists, up to 80 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed. The government puts the figure at 11 percent, arguing that most people are employed in the informal sector. Recent graduates are planning a demonstration against Mugabe next week after he failed to deliver on his promise last year to create two million jobs.

Is change coming?

Over the past couple of months, the number of protests against the President Mugabe and his government has been increasing. The absense of the war veterans from this week's march in support of the ruling party and their subsequent statement denouncing Mugabe has raised the question of whether support for the long-serving president is falling to levels which could lead to political change in the country.

"The people of Zimbabwe are not taking the situation into their own hands in registering their displeasure with the government," said Alexander Rusero, a political analyst in Harare. "We also have a government that is clueless in terms of what to do to alleviate the poverty or to calm the disgruntlement that has gripped the citizens of Zimbabwe."

Many of the protests are in response to the failing economic situation in the country. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe is in crisis as the country's economy deals with hyperinflation and a currency shortage. Most civil servants are yet to be paid for June or July and even the country's military has not been paid on schedule this month.


"This is really uncharted water for Zimbabwe," said Wilf Mbanga, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper The Zimbabwean which is published outside of the country. "So many people are prepared to confront the government and they all now agree that this government must go."

But Mbanga was cautious in predicting whether the latest protests would lead to political change in Zimbabwe.

"Mugabe has a very strong army which is solidly behind him but this month they have not been paid," he said. "Will they now be prepared to fight for a government that is failing to pay them?"

Monday, July 18, 2016

Morocco wants to rejoin African Union: king

Yahoo – AFP, July 18, 2016

Moroccan King Mohammed VI, pictured in February 2016, says his country
want to rejoin the African Union (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Rabat (AFP) - Morocco wants to rejoin the African Union, 32 years after quitting the bloc in protest at its decision to accept Western Sahara as a member, King Mohammed VI said Sunday.

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is an integral part of the kingdom even though local Sahrawi people led by the Polisario Front have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.

"For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them, so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family. The moment has now come," the monarch said in a message sent to an AU summit taking place in Kigali, the MAP Moroccan news agency reported.

Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognised by the international community.

Morocco quit the AU in protest in 1984 when the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was admitted as a member.

But although Morocco left the club, "it never quit Africa", King Mohammed said in his message to AU leaders as they began a two-day meeting in the Rwandan capital.

"Through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions," he added.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI wife Princess Lalla Selma, front right, welcomes
 U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, front left, and daughters Malia, rear right, and 
Sasha at Menara Airport in Marrakech, Morocco, Monday, June 27, 2016. The
 first lady is on a visit to Morocco to promote eduction for girls. (AP Photo/ 
Abdeljalil Bounhar)

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed independence movement the Polisario Front but a promised referendum to settle the status of the desert territory has yet to materialise.

Earlier this year Morocco expelled several UN staff members who were part of the MINURSO mission in Western Sahara in angry retaliation over UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's use of the term "occupation" to describe the status of the territory.

In his address to the African Union, King Mohammed urged the bloc to rethink its position on the "phantom state" of Western Sahara, saying that a political solution was being worked on under the auspices of the UN.

"The recognition of a pseudo state is hard for the Moroccan people to accept," he said.

The SADR is not a member of the UN or the Arab League, the king went on to note, adding that "at least 34 countries" do not recognise it.

"On the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and a cumbersome legacy," the monarch said.

Morocco's return to the AU would need to be validated by a vote.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Africa's progress in the fight against HIV/Aids

The South African city of Durban is the venue for the 2016 World Aids Conference. Sub-Saharan Africa will feature prominently on the agenda, a region where the infection rate has decreased by over 40 percent since 2000.

Deutsche Welle, 15 July 2016


Which strategies are most effective in the battle against HIV/Aids? DW looks at how four African countries are responding to the challenge.

Ethiopia: Free medicines

Ethiopia is regarded as a model in the fight against the virus HIV and the disease Aids. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of new infections in the East African nation dropped by 90 percent, more than in any other African state. During the same period, the number of people who died of Aids also declined by more than half.

The decreasing infection and mortality rates are mainly due to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. ARVs prevent the HIV virus from spreading and damaging the body's immune system and also allow people to live a largely normal life with the disease. Since 2005, the drug has been distributed across Ethiopia free of charge.

In remote villages, trained medical staff ensure every HIV patient takes his or her medication. Nearly 2,500 health clinics offer care and support to pregnant women to prevent mother-to-children transmission. In addition, between 2013 and 2014 some 9.6 million people - one in ten Ethiopians - were tested forr Aids.

Kenya: compulsory HIV/Aids education

Fewer than six percent of Kenyans live with HIV/Aids. That's about 1.5 million people. The number of new infections also fell significantly in recent years. In 2005, 28.3 percent of infected mothers transmitted the virus to their children. Five years later, that figure had gone down to 8.5 percent.

Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of all pregnant Kenyan women go for Aids tests. In 2000, there were only three health facilities where Kenyans could consult medical practitioners and get tested for HIV. In 2010, the number of health facilities offering HIV consultations had increased to more than 4,000.

The main reason for the reduction in the HIV/Aids prevalence in Kenya is the supply of ARVs. In 2003, only 6,000 people had access to the medication. Ten years later, that figure increased to more than 600,000.

The Kenyan government also regards voluntary male circumcision as a weapon in the fight against AIDS. This reduces the risk of infection among men by about 40 percent, according to studies. Since 2003, HIV/Aids education has been a compulsory element in school curriculums. About 70 percent of the cost in fighting HIV/Aids in Kenya is footed by external donors.


Burkina Faso: support fund for the sick and orphans

In most of western Africa, the percentage of HIV infection was far less than in eastern and southern Africa. In 2000, Burkina Faso had a prevalence rate of around six percent, one of the highest in the region.

Today, according to estimates by UNAIDS, only 0.8 percent of the population is infected with the virus. The government responded early and showed its determination to fight the epidemic.

In 1987, the Burkinabe government implemented its first action plans. Together with international donors, the private sector and local communities, it invested large sums in ARVs, opened a support fund for HIV/Aids infected people, and started training thousands of health workers. In addition, the government began a massive behavioral change campaigns and distributed condoms.

Uganda: 'Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms'

In Uganda, the Aids epidemic reached its peak in the 1990s. Approximately 18 percent of the population was infected with the virus. The Ugandan government and international aid agencies launched ambitious and expensive educational programs with the slogan "Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms."

The campaign was a success. In 2000, only five percent of the population was HIV-positive. But, in the meantime, a contrary trend is emerging. The number of new infections in Uganda is rising again for the first time in ten years. The HIV prevalence rate in the country is now about seven percent of the population.


Surprisingly, a major reason for this is the widespread usage of ARVs and the circumcision of men. Many Ugandans believe that the ARV therapy can cure the disease completely and that male circumcision rules out any risk of infection - as a result, more people are abandoning the use of condoms.

Related Articles:


" .... Africa

Let me tell you where else it's happening that you are unaware - that which is the beginning of the unity of the African states. Soon the continent will have what they never had before, and when that continent is healed and there is no AIDS and no major disease, they're going to want what you have. They're going to want houses and schools and an economy that works without corruption. They will be done with small-minded leaders who kill their populations for power in what has been called for generations "The History of Africa." Soon it will be the end of history in Africa, and a new continent will emerge.

Be aware that the strength may not come from the expected areas, for new leadership is brewing. There is so much land there and the population is so ready there, it will be one of the strongest economies on the planet within two generations plus 20 years. And it's going to happen because of a unifying idea put together by a few. These are the potentials of the planet, and the end of history as you know it.

In approximately 70 years, there will be a black man who leads this African continent into affluence and peace. He won't be a president, but rather a planner and a revolutionary economic thinker. He, and a strong woman with him, will implement the plan continent-wide. They will unite. This is the potential and this is the plan. Africa will arise out the ashes of centuries of disease and despair and create a viable economic force with workers who can create good products for the day. You think China is economically strong? China must do what it does, hobbled by the secrecy and bias of the old ways of its own history. As large as it is, it will have to eventually compete with Africa, a land of free thinkers and fast change. China will have a major competitor, one that doesn't have any cultural barriers to the advancement of the free Human spirit.. ...."


Kryon Q&A

Question: Dear Kryon, as the Universe transforms in this period of ascension/transition, why does it appear that little spiritual attention is focused on the African continent? While there has certainly been a religious awakening largely due to the circumstances that souls choose (for example, poverty, HIV/AIDS, etc.), this is being translated quite slowly into spirituality (my perception).
What is your information on the state of spiritual awakening on the African continent?

Answer: Dear one, this question is perhaps the best one you could have asked for your time. Indeed, it appears that the African situation is dichotomous to an awakening Earth. For a full explanation, you have to go back to information we presented 12 years ago [Kryon Book One, 1989]. We told you back then that there was a potential that showed that in order for your planet to move forward at the rate it was appearing to, up to one percent of the population might have to leave. This was startling information to most of you, and some wondered how and where this might begin. A disaster, perhaps? A comet strike? Now, as you know, the Humans on the African continent are currently losing their lives by the tens of millions. In addition, the life expectancy is bleak for at least the next decade . . . perhaps the next full generation! Your disease called AIDS is seemingly fulfilling this prophecy.

What this might mean to you is that the prediction given to you about your transition is now upon you, and all you can do is sit back and watch it occur in horror. What we have channelled to you recently, however, is that nothing could be further from your reality, or your 2001 potential. Instead, we have reported to you that since the 1989 potentials, you have far exceeded the energy for the year 2001 beyond that which was expected. What this means is that now the prophecy does not have to occur at all! What you are seeing, however, is the setup for the old potential still in progress, without knowledge that it is not needed.

Remember that death of any kind is abhorrent to you. We don’t expect you to understand how such a thing could have helped Spirit or Earth, but on a grander scale, it would have. An entire generation of Humanity came in with this expectation and knowledge, and they had agreements to leave early. It is this African family that you may now turn your attention to, for they have the opportunity to void this entire contract and remain in health.

This African continent is not in a state of spiritual awakening. They are instead in survival mode, plowing through an outdated spiritual potential. What can you do? Visualize the change in this scenario! You just changed the very time frame of Earth itself, so changing the energy of this one place is well within your ability! Visualize them happy, with families intact, fed, healthy, with the potential for life and joy. The energy you can develop in these visualizations can nullify the scenario that is there . . . totally! You can change the leaders’ minds, quicken the ability for science to reach those it needs to, and even change the reality of the disease itself. All these things we tell you, lightworker, since this is the work that you have asked to do. Your visualizations create a light that shines into the dark places of consciousness, or science, and of hope itself. You still don’t understand the potential of your energy! Is it worth two minutes a day? Perhaps three? Each day, consider this.

Blessed indeed is the awakening lightworker who is free from worry about death and who is not constantly hungry. For this Human has the ability to use his energy to help those who are ready to blossom into their own spiritual awakening, but who are currently consumed with an old contract of death and disease. The few may help the many, and the many may remain to help the earth in other ways. This is what family does for family. Believe it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Michelle Obama in Morocco to launch girls' fund

Yahoo – AFP, June 28, 2016

US first lady Michelle Obama (C) and US actress Meryl Streep (R) meet with
Moroccan young women following the "Let Girls Learn" Program on June 28,
2016 in Marrakesh (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Marrakech (Morocco) (AFP) - US First Lady Michelle Obama launched a $100 million aid package in Morocco Tuesday to promote the education of girls in a country where half of females over 15 are illiterate.

Visiting Marakech with actresses Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto of the "Slumdog Millionaire" film, she told girls in attendance she wanted them to be part of a global conversation on female education.

"We want to share this conversation with young girls around the world, particularly in the United States," she said.

Obama, who was accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, arrived on Monday evening in Marakech and was welcomed by King Mohamed VI.

The first lady launched her "Let Girls Learn" education initiative in March 2015 to help adolescent girls across the world access a quality education.

She has since travelled the globe to call for greater support for the millions of girls kept away from school or forced to abandon their studies.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI wife Princess Lalla Selma, front right, welcomes 
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, front left, and daughters Malia, rear right, and 
Sasha at Menara Airport in Marrakech, Morocco, Monday, June 27, 2016. The first
lady is on a visit to Morocco to promote eduction for girls. (AP Photo/ Abdeljalil Bounhar)

"She shared lots of things with us that will help us to work hard and focus on our education," Rihab Boutadghart, a beneficiary of the initiative, said after attending the launch in Marakech.

Morocco has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world, according to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government aid agency.

The MCC used Obama's visit to announce a nearly $100-million (90 million euros) fund to tackle high drop-out rates among girls and make schools more "girl-friendly".

The money, which will fund internships, girl-friendly bathrooms and training for teachers, is expected to benefit about 100,000 students, said the MCC.

The Peace Corps said it would work with its volunteers and community leaders to advance girls' education and improve their employment prospects.

USAID pledged to spend $400,000 through an NGO to establish five new dorms for girls across the country.

Obama said she hoped the funds would "help these girls succeed in the workforce and fulfill their boundless promise".

Over half of Moroccan girls aged over 15 are illiterate, despite efforts by the government and NGOs to promote their education, according to a 2014 study by the High Commission for Planning, a government body.

But the same study said the rate of school attendance among girls of 7-12 years old had risen from 78 percent in 2004 to 94 percent in 2014.

Obama says girls around the world face challenges that prevent more than 62 million from getting an education.

The first lady spent Monday in Liberia, where she told girls to fight to stay in school despite financial pressures that cause the vast majority to drop out.

She will continue her trip with a visit to Spain on Thursday, where she will deliver a speech on the education initiative before meeting Queen Letizia.

Moroccan King Hassan II (R) decorating Muhammad Ali during a ceremony

 in the Royal Palace in Rabat on January 15, 1998 (AFP Photo/Abdelhak Senna)

Related Article:


Friday, June 10, 2016

MTN to pay $1.7 bn Nigeria telecoms fine

Yahoo – AFP, Sibongile Khumalo, June 10, 2016

South Africa's MTN was hit with the huge fine amid fears that some of the
 5.1 million affected lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents (AFP
Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Johannesburg (AFP) - South African telecoms giant MTN said Friday it would pay a $1.7 billion fine to the Nigerian government in a "full and final settlement" over its failure to disconnect unregistered mobile phone users.

The Johannesburg-based company said in a statement that "MTN Nigeria has agreed to pay a total cash amount of naira 330 billion over three years."

Africa's biggest mobile-phone operator was fined $3.9 billion last year and has since been in negotiations with the Nigerian government to reduce the size of the penalty.

The company was hit with the huge fine amid fears that some of the 5.1 million affected lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents.

The logo of South Africa's MTN 
Group is seen on signage outside
the company's headquarters in 
Johannesburg, file. Reuters/
Mike Hutchings
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the west African country's telecoms regulator, confirmed that following six months of talks, the MTN fine had been reduced.

It said in a statement that its decision to reduce the fine was based on "professionalism and global best interest."

"We were careful not to take decisions that were likely to cripple the business interest of the operators we regulate," said the commission's executive vice chairman Umar Danbatta.

"Besides, the downturn of the global economy is biting hard on everybody and every sector, so we must therefore be sensitive and flexible in our decisions," he said in the statement.

After MTN's announcement, its shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange rose as much as 21 percent, on track for the biggest gain since 2008, according to Bloomberg News.

The country's telecoms regulator had handed down the fine last year citing an inability to trace users in a country plagued by frequent kidnappings and Boko Haram militants.

The sum was originally set at $5.2 billion before being to lowered to $3.9 billion on appeal.

'Relief to investors'

"MTN is pleased to inform shareholders that the matter has been resolved with the Federal Government of Nigeria," the company statement said.

MTN executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko "expresses his thanks and gratitude to (the Nigerian government) for the spirit in which the matter was resolved," it added.

MTN paid one instalment in February and has scheduled six other payments to cover the fine by May 2019.

"The news is a huge relief to investors, given the fact that Nigeria ended up not imposing the initial amount of the fine," Dobek Pater, telecoms specialist at the Africa Analysis consultancy, told AFP.

"MTN could not afford to lose a major market such as Nigeria and by paying the fine it shows that they still have faith in keeping their investment there."

As part of the deal has undertaken to "tender an apology" to the government and people of Nigeria over the matter, according to the NCC.

It also promised to "take immediate steps steps to ensure the listing of its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange as soon as commercially and legally possible," said the NCC.

The Boko Haram violence has left at least 17,000 dead and forced more than 2.6 million people from their homes since 2009.

The MTN fine dominated South Africa's President Jacob Zuma visit to Nigeria earlier this year.

Commenting on the MTN penalty, President Muhammadu Buhari had in March said his government was more concerned about national security than the fine.

"You know how the unregistered GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) are being used by terrorists.

"Unfortunately MTN was very slow and contributed to the casualties," said Buhari during Zuma's visit to Nigeria.

Relations between the continent's two economic powerhouses have been strained over recent years on issues including economic rivalry and political friction.

South Africa's growth has been undermined by the slowdown in China and falling commodity prices, while Nigeria, the continent's top oil producer, has suffered from low oil prices.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

US announces near-total ban on African elephant ivory trade

Yahoo – AFP, Jean-Louis Santini, June 2, 2016

The United States finalizes a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant
ivory (AFP Photo/Tony Karumba)

Washington (AFP) - The US authorities announced a near-total ban on the trade of African elephant ivory on Thursday, finalizing a years-long push to protect the endangered animals.

Conservation groups welcomed the move, which aims to reduce the slaughter of more than 35,000 of Africa's 450,000 elephants estimated to be killed each year, mainly for ivory.

"Today's bold action underscores the United States' leadership and commitment to ending the scourge of elephant poaching and the tragic impact it's having on wild populations," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.

US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, 
pictured on April 19, 2016, announced
 new rules to limit imports, exports and 
sales of African elephant ivory (AFP
Photo/Alex Wong)
But the move to restrict the African ivory market in the United States -- the world’s second-largest consumer of illegal ivory after China -- comes with notable exemptions, including for documented antiques.

The final rule, which takes effect July 6, "substantially limits" imports, exports and sales of such ivory across state lines, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said.

While prohibiting most commerce, it does make exceptions for some "pre-existing manufactured" items, including musical instruments, furniture and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of ivory and meet other specific criteria, according to the FWS statement announcing the rule.

Antiques, as defined under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are also exempt. "Antique" items are at least 100 years old and meet several additional requirements.

Under Thursday's final rule, the import of sport-hunted trophies is limited to two per year.

People will also be allowed to keep lawfully acquired ivory and are not banned from donating, giving away or receiving ivory as a gift "provided it was lawfully acquired and there is no exchange for other goods or services involved," the FWS said.

"Limited exceptions" to the ban on import and export of African elephant ivory will also apply to items that are part of a traveling exhibition or "are part of a household move or inheritance when specific criteria are met" as well as "ivory for law enforcement or genuine scientific purposes," the rule said.

'Blood ivory'

The new measures fulfill restrictions in an executive order on combating wildlife trafficking President Barack Obama issued in 2013, the FWS said.

Once illegal ivory enters the market, it becomes virtually impossible to tell apart from legal ivory, it said, adding that demand for elephant ivory, particularly in Asia, "is so great that it grossly outstrips the legal supply and creates a void in the marketplace that ivory traffickers are eager to fill."

Graphic showing the illegal trade in ivory in Africa (AFP Photo/Jean
Michel Cornu, Nicholas MC Anally)

The outlawed ivory trade is mostly fueled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhino horns are used in traditional medicine and for ornaments.

"We hope other nations will act quickly and decisively to stop the flow of blood ivory by implementing similar regulations, which are crucial to ensuring our grandchildren and their children know these iconic species," Jewell said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) welcomed the final rule, calling it historic and groundbreaking.

"The USA is boldly saying to ivory poachers: You are officially out of business," WCS president and chief executive Cristian Samper -- a member of an Obama task force on wildlife trafficking -- said in a statement.

Patrick Bergin, chief executive of the US-based African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), also praised the move.

"Strong laws around wildlife crime and strong enforcement of those laws are absolutely critical in deterring traffickers and poachers," he told AFP.

"All countries -- and especially those that are source, transit or destination countries for illegal wildlife products -- have a role to play in tidying their own house."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pope Francis to receive Sunni Muslim leader at Vatican

Yahoo – AFP, Angus MacKinnon, 19 May 2016

Pope Francis (left) is to receive the spiritual leader of the world's Sunni Muslims,
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (right), at the Vatican (AFP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard,
Filippo Monteforte)

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis is to meet the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar at the Vatican on Monday in an unprecedented encounter between the leader of the world's Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who heads the mosque and seat of learning considered the most prestigious institution in the main branch of Islam, will have an audience with the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP.

"This audience is being prepared and has been scheduled for Monday," he said. "It will be a first".

The hugely symbolic visit comes against the backdrop of a recent improvement in relations between the two faiths after serious tensions during the time of Francis's predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Ties were badly soured when the now-retired Benedict made a September 2006 speech in which he was perceived to have linked Islam to violence, sparking deadly protests in several countries and reprisal attacks on Christians.

Dialogue resumed in 2009 but was suspended again by Al-Azhar in 2011 when Benedict called for the protection of Christian minorities after a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria, an intervention that was perceived as meddling in Egypt's internal affairs.

Relations have steadily improved since Francis became pope in 2013 with inter-faith dialogue near the top of his agenda, something he underlined with a personal message to the Muslim world to mark the end of the first month of Ramadan of his pontificate.

A representative of the Al-Azhar mosque, Mahmoud Azab, took part in an inter-faith conference at the Vatican in March 2014 aimed at fostering cooperation on combating modern slavery and people trafficking.

"The dialogue was never cut, it was just suspended," Azab said at the time, adding that the idea was not "dialogue for its own sake. There has to be a clear agenda."

On a trip to Jordan and Israel in May 2014, Francis was accompanied by two old friends from his days in Buenos Aires, the Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Islamic studies professor Omar Abboud.

Pope hosts Muslim families

He has also pursued a historic rapprochement with the Orthodox Church, meeting the Russian patriarch in Cuba last year, and overseen the finessing of Catholic thinking on the need for Jews to convert, easing long-standing tensions with Judaism.

The 79-year-old pope made headlines in April when he returned from a trip to the migrant crisis island of Lesbos with three Syrian Muslim families who are now being put up by the Vatican as they apply for asylum in Italy.

Church officials say the choice of families was random but the gesture was nevertheless highlighted by media throughout the Islamic world and Francis came under fire from some on his own turf for not picking some of the Christians asylum-seekers in limbo on Lesbos.

The pope has however shown himself willing to speak out about aspects of Islam he has issues with, most notably in December 2014 when he said it would wonderful if some Muslim leaders "spoke up clearly and condemned" extremist violence carried out in the name of their religion.

Those remarks were seen at the time as reflecting mounting concern over the plight of Christians in the Middle East against the backdrop of the civil war in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Vatican sees IS as determined to drive Christian and other non-Muslim minorities out of Iraq and Syria, and that has helped to accelerate the push for dialogue with Muslim leaders willing to try and stop that happening, experts say.

There is also a view in the Holy See that there is a struggle for the soul of Islam going on and that Vatican diplomacy should focus energetically on ensuring the right side comes out on top.

Related Articles: